17 October 2017

On Progress and Taking a Step towards our Passions

Progress is an arbitrary concept. In its simplest form, it means ‘an onward movement’ or ‘to move forward’. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel stuck in a rut because they think that progress is always limited to something grand, like a promotion at work or hitting a big life goal. Either that or they fall in a trail of self-doubt with every nudge towards progress, especially in a generation where likes have become the seal of approval and comparing oneself to others just seems a little to inevitable.

It’s important to remember that progress is a personal love affair and includes every small step we take, whether it is our constant pursuit for new experiences or an attempt at the things that we are interested in or passionate about – and this is the exact message that Johnnie Walker wants to convey in its latest initiative. With the JohnnieWeekend Creators Lab series, Johnnie Walker is leading the way in inspiring this new generation to keep walking by providing new experiences and venues where like-minded people can come together and grow their passions and craft. Comprised of creative workshops and community events, the JohnnieWeekend Creators Lab series is done in collaboration with trailblazers who have made their marks in their respective fields, and who will inspire others to do so.

For the first installment of the series, Johnnie Walker teamed up with Marvin Conanan and Deej Fabian to shine the light on local photography and music. These two esteemed artists have contributed greatly to the elevation of the local creative culture to a global scale. Through his establishment of PURVEYR, an online magazine, Marvin has created a tangible outlet where Philippine creatives are recognized and revered. Deej, on the other hand, sheds light on Filipino musicians through his film work, having partnered with artists from the Logiclub collective and more.

For the first part of the MarvinxDeej collaboration, up-and-coming photographers were invited for an audio-visual exercise, where they were given a playlist to listen to and translate into visuals. Marvin and Deej put together a short playlist of local music by Asch, She's Only Sixteen and crwn for the photographers to listen to and immerse with while walking around Poblacion for an afternoon photowalk. This exercise, while fairly unfamiliar to the participants and their more traditional methods of craft, was able to tap into their psyche of inspiration and incite a new experience.

Part two was a culminating exhibit at Dulo MNL to showcase the works of 6 featured photographers - Alyssa Uy, Ryan Tionloc, Aly Mananquil, Renzo Navarro, Jilson Tiu, Poj Gearlan, as well as the other talented artists who participated in the creative audio-visual exercise. The exhibit served as a stepping stone for these artists to move forward with their passions, and at the same time, served as a venue for the community to come together and get inspiration from the creative diversity that transpired during the party.

By providing outlets for uninhibited self-expression and symbiotic relation, #JohnnieWeekend is able to present progress in a new light – one that is devoid of pretense and competition, where individuals can coexist at their own pace, whether it’s two steps forward or back.  Whether you’re a budding musician or a photographer with a veteran eye, Johnnie Walker believes that sharing your talents and passion can draw a bigger picture of inspiring others to do the same. But here, it’s not about figures or garnering Instagram hearts, it’s about inspiring each other and creating a sense of community and collaboration that fosters personal growth.

From food to film, music to sports – Johnnie Walker will continue to collaborate with local trailblazers from different fields. A new installment for the Johnnie Weekend Creators Lab series will be introduced every month, where anyone can come together, share their passions and thoughts over a glass of Johnnie Walker. To know more about Johnnie Weekend, you can check out the JohnnieWalkerPH page on Facebook for more details.

11 October 2017

Mark Redito shares his lifelong pursuit of Sound and making people Dance

The beginnings of a melody echoed its way onto the wee hours of the morning. Louder and louder it grew, booming defiantly in the silence that followed. The plight of the drums, the sound of it. The houses next door groaned under its weight, finding the beginnings of a melody as mere noise. But the little drummer boy carried on, the drums and his heartbeat synchronized in its beating. 

Then, the little drummer boy delved further into musical pursuits. His years in school became a rhythmic blur, the band scene becoming his oyster. It was punk one day, and indie the next. He birthed another musical persona in the form of CocoLulu. Then out came Spazzkid. But these days, he is known by way of Mark Redito.

Illustration by Bryan Sochayseng

How he got here was a journey to self-discovery. It was one he traversed and explored out of curiosity. The decision to peruse the electronic music scene was hinged on realization, “A band set-up wasn’t an ideal fit for me because I had strong opinions and it takes a special person to really work with me on such a set-up. That actually pushed me to explore. How would it look like if I made music by myself?  That’s when I began learning software, recording myself, and I enjoyed it”. He was then inducted into Manila’s night life, far from being a fixture but gaining momentum all the same. 

"Maybe I can make this work? Maybe I can pursue this! How about I give myself a year or two to see where it goes." This was his train of thought circa ’06-’07. This was a man on a mission. This was someone who had a certain pursuit in mind; he was determined to find his true musical form. The search led him to hone his craft and study the discipline Stateside. Mark finished the program with a much affirmed stance. He knew it then, and more so now. Music was something his heart beats for. 

Spazzkid made his rounds on the World Wide Web, releasing tracks via SoundCloud. Canadian producer, Ryan Hemsworth, took notice and the next thing he knew, he was performing his first live show in L.A. Then, came the gigs he was booked for night after night. His track list expanded and so did his fanbase. He found himself touring in different cities, first in the U.S. and then in Asia. He looks back at where life has taken him with much fondness, “A highly memorable experience for me was when I was on tour with Giraffage two years ago. We played at a music hall which could fill around a thousand people. It was one of the biggest shows that I played. Just seeing this sea of people, it was beyond my wildest dreams. Just all these people to be cheering for you and dancing with you, and having a great time. It was a very humbling experience.”

Perhaps his strongest suit is his uncanny ability to make people dance. His previous monicker’s sound has been described as a sub-genre of new electronic music, a “lush glistening brand of synth-heavy arrangements”, as one would put it. Mark Redito credits his groovy tunes to several sources, attributing most of it to nostalgia. His playful aesthetic comes from growing up in an environment of video games, the soundtracks of which having seeped into his consciousness.  His music is also heavily characterized by Japanese pop with a nod to producer, Yasutaka Nakata. What’s surprising, however, is where he draws his inspiration from in the local pop culture scene. As it turns out, Eraserheads, the four-piece band that defined an era in Filipino music, played a huge part in his development as a solo artist. You don’t hear it in his musical make-up but the spirit it stands for is definitely there, “They’re the shit that I listen to, and I would say that they’ve been a big part in terms of songwriting and melody construction. It started from Ultramagneticpop which was very raw. It’s not the best quality but it’s full of energy. The pop songwriting on that one was really amazing”.

The tunes he puts out are by-products of a very systematic process. It’s borne of a healthy amount of discipline, a routine he doesn’t bother falling under. When he’s not on tour, he blocks off 2 to 3 hours on his daily to write music, explore certain sounds, make some loops, and experiment with his software. The man’s creativity is harnessed by the music he consumes. This is his unapologetic take—the method to his madness, if you may.  This habit-forming foray of his has bid him well. This has blessed him with a resplendent growth into his artistry. There’s a fine line between CocoLulu and Spazzkid, and a definite distinction to the current namesake he carries. His sound palette has noticeably evolved into an artist finding his identity to one who’s grown confident into his own skin. The common thread then lies in the recurring theme he has consciously sought to put out with his melodies, “It’s always been about acceptance and positivity and hope. My music seeks to give you a respite from whatever baggage you’re carrying for the moment. It gives you the license to let loose and forget about your worries for a bit.”

If there’s been a struggle to his craft, he doesn’t show it. Mark Redito is the kind of person who takes matters into his own hands. He shares how representing a minority has been a challenge in the context of America’s electronic scene. Nonetheless, he chooses to view it in the positive light of things. Among his noteworthy undertakings is Liquido, a regular party he hosts in L.A. The cause behind it is close to Redito’s heart. It’s a space where diversity is championed and features people of color, women, and LGBTQ line-ups among others. This year, he’s looking into branching Liquido outside its party stance, to make it more akin to a lifestyle. We hear there’s also a bunch of visual collaborations with filmmakers on the horizon. And definitely a new album in the works after the Asian leg of his tour.

His young thriving musical persona is not one that can be doubted. And his slow steady climb to the top makes the success that comes with it a whole lot sweeter. His body of work speaks for himself and so does his learnings, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself. I think that people don’t need to stress out too much about where they are in their creative pursuits or careers in that the process is there. Sometimes, you’re up, sometimes you’re down, but I want to encourage you to stick to it. To be unique, to stand apart from the crowd because it’s the only way people will remember you. Just by being you.”

That night, as I was browsing my social media feeds, I came across him again. He was spinning his set in XX XX in Manila for his Neurotropical Tour 2017. Even through the screen, I could see how everyone was transfixed by his presence. He was making them throw their hands up in the air, whisking them away to the dance floor; a respite to their worries in true fashion. There’s no doubt about his rhythm, the way he was making people feel. This was Mark Redito in action. 

And this, at long last, is his homecoming.

Photo from his XX XX performance

02 October 2017

The Streetwear Comeback: UNSCHLD since 2007, till 2017 and beyond

I bought my first UNSCHLD piece in 2013. It was a dark blue denim jacket that had Alfred E. Neuman patched on the back and stylized like a pirate. It also had "MARAUDERS" embroidered on it. I wanted it in black denim but that was sold out. 

Words by Red Moraleta & Photos by Zaldine Alvaro

I was in high school back then. I wasn't the type to go out so I didn't know how to do many things that I've grown accustomed to now. This was my first online purchase. No physical interaction with the seller – just go to the bank, deposit the money, then the item's going to be shipped straight to your door. Pretty simple, but it was already a challenge for the younger me that hadn't done anything independently yet. For a lot of the more grown-up errands and tasks that I do now, streetwear was one of the reasons I learned to do them. Before I even had the faintest idea of what streetwear was, it already affected my life. The bold designs, the meaning, the enigmatic presence that the clothes represented, they spoke to me. UNSCHLD embodies what streetwear is and their comeback is further proof of what kind of impact they had on people and continue to have on them. Seeing them come back with a collection brought me back to my roots, like a lot of us.

The streetwear powerhouse was founded in 2007. The founders envisioned the brand to be an entirely different entity from the individuals who compose of it. To have a wholly different different persona. To exist on its own. Its name "Unschooled" is derived from their collective outlook in life; that the brand will not follow a certain school of thought. That it is self-taught. Stylized as UNSCHLD, the brand's beginnings can be traced to the early days of online selling. Their products back in those days were mostly graphics-centered. And where an actual physical shop wasn't present, Multiply was. (Multiply was an online social networking site that allowed users to share media. It was prominent pre-Facebook, it's where local independent businesses would set up their online stores for free. It officially halted its operations in 2013.) Operations were guerilla-like, its spread was by word of mouth. Clearly a formula that worked for them as they rose to prominence and established themselves. Now, they return perennially awaited by the community.

The lookbook, which was dropped in August 2017, brought out a frenzied excitement and anticipation for the brand that had wiped clean all of its posts all over their social media. Soon, a date for a pop-up was announced through an event poster. The strategic set-up brought forth a crowd itching at their palms to get a hold of UNSCHLD. The line outside Openspace – where the pop-up is located – started at around 1:17 PM and only grew longer from there as the afternoon went by.

I went around asking people about UNSCHLD. Both old and new customers had nothing but praises to say. Old customers told me their stories about how they got into UNSCHLD in the first place and why they anticipated this return. New customers shared what drew them to the pop-up.

Josh Subeldia, a long time follower of the brand, remembers idolizing Rjay Ty and points to him as his influence for supporting UNSCHLD. David De Jesus recalls his affinity with the brand which started from the Word Play events at Ronac Art Center where he would see the quality goods that the then Ronac-based store carried. (UNSCHLD had a shop in Ronac Art Center after closing Commune at Perea St., Makati City.) While KLTRD co-founder Mong Feliciano reminisces about UNSCHLD's early days in Perea St., where the same owners of the brand run the streetwear store, Commune. "It was the place to be at the time, around 2009-2010." he shares. All of them found out about UNSCHLD through physical interactions, one of the many reasons that made the brand's community flourish. While old customers experienced UNSCHLD first-hand, new customers like Argie Alcantara and Joey Coscolluela had to wait for this comeback release to get a piece for their own. Both of them found out about UNSCHLD when the brand was on hiatus, which is why they never got the opportunity to purchase pieces from the local streetwear pioneer. Argie, already wearing the cap he bought, says the wide variety of pieces and superb craftsmanship drew him to the launch of UNSCHLD's new collection. Joey tells us he found out about the pop-up from a friend and saw the opportunity to finally buy a piece from the brand he's only seen online. With streetwear and the internet fully acquainted, UNSCHLD has reached another resurgence for its community.

UNSCHLD's own – Julo de Guzman, owner, and Rjay Ty, manager, added a few things. When asked about the reason of UNSCHLD's hiatus, "UNSCHLD never stopped. Operations were always ongoing, it just seemed we were gone from the outside." they shared. And what more can we expect from the brand? "More streetwear staples that have the same trusted quality." they eagerly explain.


UNSCHLD's since grown from its inception, it is now revered as one of local streetwear's pioneers. Their humble roots of graphic tees have now expanded into full garments and accessories, so it's exciting to see where they're going next.

26 September 2017

Creative's Travel Guide: 18 Hours in Siargao by Archie Geotina

Soak in some sun and fall in love with Siargao's amazing views and laid-back vibe. Siargao, in all its glory, has a reputation of being deemed as the surfing capital of the Philippines, understandably so, with countless of surfboards that have kissed the waves of its beaches and the amount of surfing spots it has to offer. But what do we really know of this surf-loving island besides its lively waves and the evidently sun-kissed skin of its locals and tourists? Artist Archie Geotina didn’t know much either, not until he packed his bags and started living there almost two years ago.

Back in Manila, Archie Geotina, better known as ‘chichimonster’, kept himself busy with freelance work as an artist. Working with different brands and doing art direction for different clients, Archie managed to fill his already thick portfolio with all the creative works he has done in the past. He also ventured out, owning a sewing shop that manufactures clothing for local and foreign brands, together with his partner. Needless to say, his life in the city was pretty productive and creatively-driven. However, for Archie, with the desire to breathe in a different type of air, moving to Siargao seemed like the most natural decision as he sees the hustle and bustle of Manila to be, in his own words, ‘repetitive’ and ‘mundane’. 

“I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted my mind to grow. So I decided to change my mindset by changing my scenery. And everything around me and in me changed after that.” Archie shares. These days, he is still rooted in his creative activities – would fly back to Manila once a month for a huge project he is currently doing, as well us check up on his sewing shop back in the city. Together with all of these responsibilities, he now also works as the brand manager of Harana Surf Resort.

So with his background and time spent in Siargao, we are sure Archie's guide to the island would be really interesting. The list is composed of his recommended activities that one can do within 18 hours in the island, to experience its laid-back vibe, great community and a variety of food.

Words by Christia Ramos & Photography by Emmanuel Ybañez

6AM – 7AM: Wake up like a local
With the tourism in Siargao becoming a thriving scene, it’s best to come and watch the sun rise at the Cloud 9 tower to avoid the swarm of tourists later in the day. This way, you’ll get to witness the island in its purest form.

7AM – 8AM: Explore the island in style
For Archie, the best thing about Siargao is its lack of traffic, he would often drive around on his Honda TMX 155 brat while the island is asleep. After soaking in on an amazing view, why not rent a motorbike and explore the island for a much closer look while in motion and take advantage of the early hours to experience Siargao in its peaceful nature.

8AM – 10AM: Grab a hearty breakfast
Let Shaka or Harana Surf Resort fill you up with the most important meal of the day. After driving around, your appetite would've gone through the roof and a serving of some healthy breakfast from Shaka or a taste of the classic Filipino-style breakfast with a cup of the island's best coffee from Harana Surf Resort will do just the trick. 

While you're at it, go on ahead to Kawayan Gourmand for a taste of some legit croissants, but better go there early 'cause these things run out fast. However, if you're looking for a quick bite and cheap good food, go and look for Shat's or Dadang's by purok 3 and you'll find Archie's favorite and well-recommended carinderias.


Harana Surf Resort

10AM – 12PM: Surf like the locals do
After an hour full of great food, it's time to head on over to Malinao beach for a swim. It's a peaceful beach far from General Luna and it is less reef and more sand if you find the right spot.

Check the beach if surfing is possible. If the tides are right for the breaks that you want to surf in, go surf. Do not go to Siargao and not surf at least once. As a beginner, look for a SISA (Siargao Island Surfer's Association) certified surf instructor and get lessons at Cloud 9. Normally they will take you to a break called Jacking Horse, a good beginner break that works best during high tides. On lower tides the wave gets bigger and jacks up faster. 

12PM – 2PM: Feast on some fresh seafood 
You'd be hungry by now, so go with your friends and do some island hopping to Naked Island, Guyam and Daku. Before you head out, buy fish in the General Luna market and have it cooked in Daku island where you can rent cottages so you can relax under the shade. Normally you would spend 500 per head or 1,000 including food. 

2PM – 3PM: Get a glimpse of Siargao's natural beauty
I always tell people to explore the island away from General Luna, go to Tak Tak Falls or Pilar or Tangbayan Caves. See the island in all its untouched glory and see how peaceful it truly is. The road trip normally teaches tourists why they should respect the island. You realize these things when you explore. 

3PM – 4PM: Siesta time
The island will wear you down with all of the activities. So it's always good to have time to rest and slow down. 

4PM – 6PM: Snack, then go again
Grab a snack at CFC, Catagnan Fried Chicken. Then go back to the beach for a sunset surf. 

6PM – 8PM: Treat yourself with some more good food
Have some dinner at Kalinaw, although a bit on the higher ended price-point, the food and service in Kalinaw never disappoints. I recommend that you try their thin crust pizzas and specials.

8PM – 9PM: Bottom's up!
It's happy hour at Kermit's, so grab their mojitos, these drinks are buy one take one until 9pm so get them while you can.

9PM – 10PM: Sip or sleep
You're probably a little tipsy by now, but you can still head to Harana Surf Resort for some B52's and tequila shots if you're pre-gaming for a party. Or you could take a more relaxed route and get yourself some well-needed slumber.

10PM – 12AM: End the full day with a blast, if you're still up for it
Head to Viento Del Mar, Rhumbar or Jungle Disco for a glimpse of Siargao's nightlife. But you should really get some rest. All the activities that you did prior? That's only half of what you can do here.

19 September 2017

Dulo MNL: The Start of Poblacion’s Creative Commonwealth

Art and culture were never the first things that come to mind when one thought about the gritty roads of Poblacion. What used to be a cluster of bars scattered with provocatively-dressed women along nondescript streets has started to break away from its red light district reputation. Making a name for itself, Poblacion is fast becoming more colorful than the kitschy neon signs that greet your arrival. 

One of the establishments fronting the Poblacion renaissance into a cross-cultural boiling pot of art, music, and food is Dulo. At first glance, its plain concrete façade is easy to miss, only signified by the graffiti pattern that adorns its entrance. Unlike other establishments, there are no glowing signs festooned outside to tell you this is the place, but it is exactly its curious charm and subtle eccentricity that draws people in. 

Inside is even more unexpected. There are indoor plants that look like they’ve been plucked out of a Pinterest wet dream, contrasted by a menagerie of furniture that shouldn’t mesh well together but do. The repurposed woodwork and upcycled chairs might scream urban coffee shop, but the Victorian-esque mirrors and neon lights linger between the lines of a dive bar and speakeasy. It opens its doors at 8AM, ready to serve you a cup of artisanal joe, but sometimes closes as late as 6AM, bidding you goodnight with a sake sour. Which begs the question, what exactly is Dulo? 

As a restaurant, bar, café, and events venue all in one, Dulo is a space that wears many hats. But at its core, it is a community platform that aims to provide a home for artists, creative thinkers, and anyone with the slightest sliver of appreciation for art. “It’s called Dulo because we cater to both ends of the creative spectrum – whether you’re an established, high-brow artist who’s been in the industry for a long time, or an emerging, starving artist with no experience,” shared Rae Pineda, who co-owns the newest kid on the Poblacion block with partner Alexa Arabejo. “We also call it Dulo because we want to highlight the outskirts of the city. Most people think that the heart of the city is in the central business district, but so much pockets of art surrounding that are being ignored.”

Inspired by Malate’s heyday prominence as the cultural destination for young artists, Dulo aims to provide the same recluse. “There was this bar in Malate back in the 70’s called Penguin. They became known because they were the creative space that people needed,” Pineda said. Penguin Bar & Café, a hole-in-the-wall space, which opened its doors at the height of Martial Law, was home to writers, photographers, and other artists from all walks of life. “[They] would come there, chill out, and bask in each other’s creative energy. All pretenses just fly out the window. That’s what we want to recreate while building our own community.” 

Dulo markets itself as a blank canvas that encourages people to create, whether you know how to work a paint brush or not. Its second floor, an expansive, empty space built for events, has housed a slew of different happenings – from exhibits, live shows, and stand-up comedy, to burlesque performances and workshops. Some events, such as Voodoo Child, a night dedicated to rock and roll, and the recent Tago sa Dulo, a collaboration with Tago Jazz Bar in Cubao, have garnered such positive reception that they have been added to their regular repertoire. One thing is clear: Dulo welcomes all forms of artistic expression with open arms, no matter which industry or field you’re from. “We really want to be a safe, unfiltered haven that inspires collaboration among the creative community,” Pineda asserted. The concept of a “circle” or “scene” might be mistaken for clique mentality and further reiterate the exclusivity of art, but Dulo assures everyone that they are anything but. “Our main goal is to bridge the gap between the artists and audiences, even those who know nothing about art. We don’t want to be intimidating. We hear people say things like, ‘I’m interested in art but I’m not an artist, where do I go?’ Well, we’re saying you can always visit Dulo.”

Its menu is no exception to the place’s recurring ingenuity. A mix of various Asian flavors, their selection is heavily influenced by Pineda’s taste for her former home. “I lived in Taipei before coming here, and I noticed how Taiwanese food isn’t so common in Manila so I thought of combining it with what we have here,” she noted. “We’re a creative space so we encourage our bar and kitchen to be as imaginative as they can.” The result? A playful carte du jour that includes mushroom bao – a flavorful combination of shiitake mushrooms, mayo, and fried shallots with an after-taste reminiscent of sisig, clam chowder miso soup – an inventive broth that merges two soup staples, and the well-loved pork belly bowl that is nothing short of culinary catharsis. Their drinks menu, on the other hand, is as innovative as you’d expect it to be, pleasantly surprising your palates with the likes of spiked milk tea they call the Naichatini, and their off-menu sake sour that will have you ordering another round or three. 


Already being flocked to by visitors from all over the metro and beyond, Dulo owes their success to their diverse team, which is composed of industry veterans and talented novices alike. Their chefs hail from the likes of Vask and Black Sheep, while their bar consultant, Kath Eckstein, is an acclaimed mixologist in the world of bartending. Still preaching its dedication to community and collaboration, the staff is also comprised of both students and professionals who all have one common denominator: their passion. Whether it’s being in a band, writing, or having an affinity for coffee beans, all Dulo employees continue to uphold the space’s communal feel. “Literally anyone can be part of the Dulo family,” Pineda beamed. 

While fairly new at only two months old, Dulo is making stark contributions to the growing progressiveness of Poblacion. “The best thing about [Poblacion] is it’s become such a community now. There didn’t used to be much places in Manila where you can just walk around, and it’s great because all the establishments have their own concepts,” she acknowledged, referencing places such as Tambai, which has become an institution on its own, and their own neighbor, Crying Tiger Street Kitchen. “Instead of competing with one another, we help each other out, even with small things. Say we’re missing a wire or cable. I could just call up the guys from Z Hostel. We also support each other’s events.” 

Similar to Penguin’s genesis during an era of turmoil when freedom of expression came at an expensive price, Dulo also aims to be vanguards of critical thinking and societal involvement through art – at a time when forces threaten to put humanity in the back burner. “Once we’re done polishing the rough edges, we want to be facilitators of discussion and be more proactive about social issues – make the most of this platform,” she affirms. “We don’t want to make art just to sell. We want it to be an avenue for people to be part of the shifting social norms. Just make sh*t happen.” 

Even their logo, which might look like a row of randomly placed lines at first, signifies so much more. “It symbolizes the spectrum – the ebb and flow of life. There are highs and lows, but you just have to go with it,” Pineda explained. “You can’t plateau on a high, but you can’t plateau on a low either. It’s balance.” And it is on this foundation of balance that Dulo finds the perfect fusion of symmetry and creative chaos, and tradition and constant reinvention.

11 September 2017

A discussion of subversive fame and sex positive space in the Philippines with Joyen Santos

The Wicked Bitch of the East, Black Unicorn, Queen of Manila Underground – Joyen Santos is Manila’s beacon of erotica. An incongruent singularity within the conservative urban sprawl of nearly 13 million, and yet a completely congruent declaration of contemporary Filipino culture. Appropriately, Joyen is full of singularities - from the rare quality of having humility of character to announcing to a room of students that she wants to make the Philippines kinky, and publicizing herself as “the first and only-practicing rope bondage dominatrix in the country”. Kink is on the rise and Joyen is its binding momentum. Ironically, though, the movement is not her’s, in fact, it's no one’s. Her alien Filipina approach to beauty, sex and art combined with a tenacious work ethic has quietly provided her with social carte blanche, while empowering the maturation of Manila’s alternative community. 

Joyen and I met up at DULO in Poblacion to chat about her role in conservative Filipino society, and the contemporary kink/sex positive spaces she provides to her rapidly growing audience; Filipino millennials. 

Interview and shoot done in DULO
4988 P. Guanzon St., Poblacion, Makati
Words by Hannah Beck & Photography by Zaldine Alvaro

How did you arrive at your current role in conservative Filipino society as the “first and only-practicing rope bondage dominatrix in the country”?

By accident. It was on my bucket list - Japanese rope bondage. I have a tendency to live under a rock. I didn’t know of the social implications of rope bondage. I didn’t know it was taboo. I didn’t know it was sexual. Because, you know… I look at it, it doesn’t seem sexual to me. Its bondage, but there's no penetration. It didn’t occur to me that there were a lot of implications. When I started doing it back then… people started gravitating towards me: “Can you exhibit your work?” I actually started as a fine art photographer, and then people were asking me to perform what I photograph. Then that was more successful than my photographs. It's really accidental. I didn’t grow up and one day decide, “I think I’ll take my clothes off for a living,” and apparently, I’m very good at it and I’m proud that I am. I never planned any of that. I never planned to be the face of the alternative scenes in Manila. It just happened. Luck. There's a lot of luck involved. There's a lot of proper timing. 

Your personality too. Talking to people; they want to be able to engage with ease with somebody like you. Especially in a conservative society – sex is scary. It's not spoken about, and then to have somebody who is very open, with a big smile and very beautiful...

Exactly. To make things accessible to conservative Filipinos, but mind you, Filipinos are some of the wildest creatures behind closed doors. It's just that nobody ever talks about it. But to me it's common sense to want to have great sex. To want to have certain kinks in my armor if you know what I mean. I just happen to be very open with it so…

It’s really dope how your interest in Japanese rope bondage ended up being so welcome; an open invitation to do things – You began by showing people your art, and then you began to have a very publicized presence. That's very interesting, especially in regard to having a sex positive role here.

Lord knows we need it. We need it.

It's funny you say that, because when I first came here to DULO to see you perform for Burlesque PH, I saw the spoken word and erotic comedy troupe, Deus Sex Machina perform a skit about a married couple afraid, or ashamed I guess, to have sex, and… well… I… I had no idea…

Welcome to Asia.

I had just met you earlier that day when I participated as your “bunny” during String Theory, your rope-bondage workshop, and then that evening I saw this skit. I thought the two were such contrasting insights into sexuality in the Philippines. So, is this common amongst married couples?

So, I have this, sort of, Facebook live talk show, an informal talk show, where people comment or send me messages asking questions about sex, relationships, love, BDSM, everything in-between. And I get questions – they’re mostly from the Filipino audience – like, “Will I get pregnant if I swallow semen?” Or, men who do not know what happens during menstruation. Or, “Does orgasming too much cause women to go crazy?” 

Oh… I see… so then, what does sex ed look like in the Philippines?

What's sex ed?!?!?! Haha! I’m not the authority when it comes to sex education – disclaimer right there. Although, I am studying to be a sex educator in the realm of the things that I do: BDSM, sex and body image positivity. We have… I guess I could explain the extremes to you — I went to an all girls catholic school — we have the powerpoint presentation featuring what happens: a photo of this STD, this STD…

Oh! To scare you!

Yes! Scare you! Don’t have sex! This will happen! But more and more there are people who advocate sex ed, but nobody really sees one solid, consistent figure who is there, accessible and reliable.

I was researching sex education in the Philippines – there is one NGO here that sets out to educate very young girls about their bodies and birth control – the woman being interviewed stated that so many young girls are having children, and that someone needs to tell them that when you start to menstruate you can have a baby. You can be 13 and have a baby, and that is very common.

Yes, again, that is very common. There are a couple of NGOs, but again they are few and far between – maybe the Red Whistle, Love Yourself. I work with… it's not an official partnership, but they have been my clinic for the longest time, and they are called the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) and they have implants in the arm that you can get for PHP 5,000 to US$100 denomination. The last time I checked, they implant it in you for free.

Yes, that was the organization. During the interview the woman was checking young girls arms.

The problem with them, and the reason I want to partner with them is because they have no social media presence. And we’re the social media capital of the world! But with any organization or individual, there is always some aspect lacking… so I thought that I could bring presence to them.

Your publicized sex-positive role seems to be something of a phenomenon. What are the broader cultural circumstances that have shaped your existence and kinky pursuits? 

The main influence in my life has to be Japanese Culture. I come from a traditional, average Filipino family, and that being said – I focused on school, I didn’t hang out with friends, and I had no boyfriend. I could only watch TV during the weekends. Asian – purely traditional, conservative Asian upbringing, as we know it. And some of the things I got to spend a lot of time with during my free time when I was younger were Japanese shows, culture, anime – which are probably the reasons why I chose to practice Japanese style rope bondage and discipline that comes with it, you know? It's a huge influence. I didn’t get to spend so much time with people when I was younger. So, I have this stubborn attitude towards things. I’m used to being on my own and making decisions on my own. I tend to be dense – not so receptive of other people’s opinions in both good and bad ways, although when they have a special place in my life, you know, that's when I start listening. But yeah, I was very sheltered, and when I finally got out into the world it seemed like I was an alien. Its weird. Because I’m stubborn, I have a shield against all of the naysayers – and there are a lot. I have the stamina to carry on despite being called a "glorified prostitute". So, there's that… it's still an Asian country after all. There's a discipline I instill in my work. At the same time there's the pursuit in looking good despite all of the hardships that has to go into studying a craft – performing a craft. I guess it's a very Japanese mindset, heavy huge influence. 

Where's the kink? Again, going back to the Japanese; they are capable of making anything kinky. It's a trait that I particularly admire. I mean who would have known that tentacles were sexual (From Japanese Hentai shows.)?! And they have a history – the wood block print of a woman getting cunnilingus from an octopus! How did you think of that?! There's so much creativity in the pent-up Japanese culture. It just comes out in so many ways, no pun intended. It's amazing. I love the rigidity. You know, they look good, nice and fixed, but on the side they’re having sex with an octopus!

Within fifteen minutes of meeting you during String Theory you said, “I want to make the Philippines kinky”. I thought it was such a huge thing to say because in a way it was so singular; just you, alone saying that. It sounded crazy, but also really rad. What does that statement mean to you?

I guess it means a lot of things. Things I already covered – showcasing and education. There's that to putting the Philippines on the map as a kink destination. All of these things combined. The Philippines is at a Renaissance. I’ve been feeling it since last year. There are so many people who are getting into all sorts of art, not just me, all sorts of shit. And, the audience is receptive to it; they’re hungry for it. I have a number of friends who keep coming into the country just for that. The scene is blooming. It comes from a lot of angles when I say, “I want to make the Philippines kinky”. It's all of that.

I watched the FHM piece “The Anatomy of a Burlesque Babe” where you state, “I think that this year, 2016, Manila has grown to be more aware and appreciative of the dark arts”. Do you think that 2017 is maintaining?

Yeah. Maintaining. Growing. Maintaining, definitely. We were able to start a lot of things, a lot of institutions last year. One of which was burlesque. We founded Manila’s first ever Kink Karnival last year, it's a convention type event with vendors who sell kinky paraphernalia and performances for one entire day. It's the first time anything like that has ever happened in Manila. And this year its happening again – October 14th. It's about maintaining. A lot of stuff happened last year during the retrograde, all the crazies went out. Now, it's just about following up with that great start and keeping it consistent.


And more people are coming out?

Oh yeah. And mostly kids. Like millennials. Early 20s. You went to the BDSM ball, you probably saw there were so many kids.

Yeah, there were a lot of millennials.

Yeah! That's my audience!

In Manila it’s very apparent that millennials are the ones pushing a lot of the changes. Of course, this is a global phenomenon. We are so loud. Millennials have a very particular set of standards, even for their own curiosity. And they don’t care if no one likes it.

Very stubborn. It's a good and bad thing. I can see why the older generation doesn’t like us. But we are very progressive, especially in the art scene. 

It's really rad that you are providing sex positive spaces…

That's how I like to think about it.

It sounds as though your pursuits don’t necessarily directly have to do with any sexual repression from your community and broader conservative Filipino culture… 

Well, I’m a very… if you cast all of the layers aside, all the smoke and mirrors, I’m a very simple person, and I like to do one thing. Again this is reference to the ideal Japanese craftsman, he does one thing everyday. There really isn’t any grand cause to why I do what I do. These are side effects. These are welcome side effects that through doing what I do I get to empower people to be ok to admit that they want good sex, ok with admitting that they are ok with their body. These are welcome ripples. But if you were to ask me, it's really… I was in the right place at the right time. And I am capable of doing things, I am honored to do these things. I am honored to be the face of the underground. I am honored to be a tool – a beacon. I am not really the expert when it comes to these things. What I am good at is showing how good these things could be, could look like. And things that they could stand for. I am able to empower people – that's their thing, it's their thing to have a cause, to fight for a cause. I’m happy to do that. I am able to connect people. I am able to connect the expert to the learner. Like the people who need birth control. I’m able to connect them. That's my role. I provide opportunities for people to connect. That's what I do. That's what I love to do. I introduce. I open the door.

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